Subclinical Cushing’s syndrome: definition and management


Massimo Terzolo, Internal Medicine I, AOU San Luigi Gonzaga, Regione Gonzole, 10, 10043 Orbassano, Italy. Tel.: 0039 011 9026678; Fax: 0039 011 6705456; E-mail:


Subclinical Cushing’s syndrome is an ill-defined endocrine disorder that may be observed in patients bearing an incidentally found adrenal adenoma. The concept of subclinical Cushing’s syndrome stands on the presence of ACTH-independent cortisol secretion by an adrenal adenoma, that is not fully restrained by pituitary feed-back. A hypercortisolemic state of usually minimal intensity may ensue and eventually cause harm to the patients in terms of metabolic and vascular diseases, and bone fractures. However, the natural history of subclinical Cushing’s syndrome remains largely unknown. The present review illustrates the currently used methods to ascertain the presence of subclinical Cushing’s syndrome and the surrounding controversy. The management of subclinical Cushing’s syndrome, that remains a highly debated issue, is also addressed and discussed. Most of the recommendations made in this chapter reflects the view and the clinical experience of the Authors and are not based on solid evidence.